By Dr. Kweku Akyirefi Amoasi
formerly known as Dr. Ramel Smith
I, too, am America is a cry that the children of the Diaspora have screamed for decades. James Baldwin captured this sentiment; he states that the oppressor has tried to keep a race of people down. However, that race of people endured that hardness and used it for fuel to become a better person, a better citizen. It is with this naïve and profound hope that the oppressor will soon see the error of their ways and allow the darker brother a true seat at the table of brotherhood.
The ghost of America’s past has a great memory for her forefathers and their wonderful achievements, but the memory for the accomplishments and brutality of her unwanted citizenry has significant recall issues. This is why it is essential to have pioneers like Carter G. Woodson proclaim boldly what others try to erase. During a season of festive cultural celebrations, the Negro found himself again in the midst of a celebration that did not include the essence of his genesis. Kwanzaa is not an African holiday. Kwanzaa is not an alternative to Christmas. Kwanzaa is a celebration that reminds everyone, but especially Black people, that this is a season of love, hope, and togetherness.
When the ghost of America’s present visits us and our modern-day Kwanzaa celebrations, we see the spirits of Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Works & Responsibility), Ujamma (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). We see these spirits of brotherhood and physical reminder of our proud African heritage manifested through our cultural clothing and use of tongues from eastern and western Africa (e.g., Habari Gani?) that represents the homeland of our ancestors. Sadly, these celebrations have succumbed into American consumerism and exploitation.
The ghost of Kwanzaa future teaches us that if we are not unified and will not work together our reality will remain the same. For example, we know our dollar only circulates within our communities for 6 hours compared to 20 and 30 days in the Jewish and Asian culture, respectively. If we continue on this path, we will not close any economic gap.
Further, our purpose and creativity will continue to be used and exploited by those who understand our value and collective power more than we do. As we approach this Kwanzaa season, recognize that we have the potential to understand this new assignment.
Remember, Kwanzaa is meant to be highlighted for seven days from December 26- January 1, but celebrated throughout the entire year. Family, go out of your way to love your brother. Family, go out of your way to support your sister’s business. Family, go out of your way to add value to a project that needs your talents. The tools of Kwanzaa are not just for Black America, but all of America. If we as a country held to these values, how much more beautiful would America be?
We often speak about how to cure the sadness of the holiday blues when we have had the recipe for mental wellness for years. Kwanzaa is the celebration that unites us in a faith that carries hope for the future. Kwanzaa is the holiday that allows us to explore our gifts and understand our purpose. And with this new knowledge, Kwanzaa teaches us how to love and share opportunities that benefit the masses. When we give of our first fruits and best harvest, how can we not be blessed? When we give collectively, how can we not be doubly blessed? Celebrate Kwanzaa, because she too, is America!!